The 2020 season is still underway and the SF Giants remain in playoff contention, but the 2021 offseason is quickly approaching.
The SF Giants will have a lot of holes to fill, especially in the starting rotation, heading into the 2021 season. However, they are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of their rebuild as many large veteran contracts begin trickling off the books.
The end of the 2020 season will see the following contracts expire:
The numbers above reflect the pre-COVID salary figures, so the picture looks a little different today since the 2020 salaries are now pro-rated. That said, the message remains the same. The Giants will have added financial flexibility this offseason.
Several names, most notably Jeff Samardzija, will become free agents at season’s end, expunging their salaries from the books.
After having one of the highest payrolls from 2016-2018 and consistently flirting with the competitive balance tax (CBT), the Giants will have more breathing room than they have had in years.
Since Farhan Zaidi was hired as the president of baseball operations, the Giants have been stingy in free agency. This has been an unpopular strategy to many Giants fans, but the truth is, spending heavily in free agency makes sense when you are in the competitive cycle. That hasn’t been the case in recent years.
The Giants have not been in the competitive cycle as they have posted a meager .440 winning percentage since the start of 2017.
The SF Giants will have plenty of payroll space
When the 2020 season began, San Francisco was $54 million below the CBT.
The upcoming collective bargaining negotiations between the MLB and MLBPA could throw a wrench into the entire payroll system, but assuming the league maintains the current CBT threshold, San Francisco will head into the offseason with $95 million of space.
It’s also worth noting that no rule prevents the Giants from going past that line. Team ownership would just have to fork over a few extra dollars in tax money to do so. They’ve done it in the past, suggesting they’ll at least consider doing it again.
Of course, we have to consider the six arbitration-eligible players including Alex Dickerson, Tyler Anderson, Donovan Solano, Trevor Gott, Jarlin Garcia, and Reyes Moronta. Of the names mentioned, Solano stands to see a noticeable pay bump through arbitration. The others would still be in-line for decent raises.
Anderson may be non-tendered due to his performances thus far. If we assume that the arbitration-eligible players will be paid no more than $15 million combined, then the Giants would have roughly $80 million available to spend.
That is a lot of lettuce. The Giants could fill some holes by adding big-name free agents such as George Springer or Marcell Ozuna, but more than likely, they will spread that money over to fill more than only one or two holes. After all, with outfield prospects like Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop, the team might not feel pressured to look for long-term options anyway.
Given the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on each team’s revenue, many will be expected to cut payroll. Since future revenue cannot be predicted with accuracy, teams will probably err on the side of caution by reducing expenses.
Despite this, the Giants are reportedly in a better financial position than most teams. If true, they may not need to be cautious at all. In fact, this may be the perfect time to get aggressive. With fewer teams willing to spend, the Giants are well-positioned to make sure they get whoever they want on the market.
What will be the SF Giants offseason strategy?
The next question is, what type of players will the Giants target? Well, if recent history tells us anything, San Francisco will likely look to add a handful of starting pitchers on a combination of major league and minor league contracts. None with necessarily the strongest resumes, but with enough upside to dream on it coming together.
Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb will be the only starting pitchers under contract heading into next season. Of course, Tyler Beede is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as well so he will likely be in the mix.
That said, the Giants will need to add several more starting pitchers. The old adage that you can never have enough starting pitching always rings true. But right now, they lack the bare minimum.
They could look to add a position player as well, but Zaidi has been hesitant to add position players on major league contracts. Wilmer Flores‘ two-year, $6.3 million deal is the biggest contract the Giants have handed out to a position player in the Zaidi era.
While San Francisco is focused on making a playoff run, it is never too early to start thinking about the offseason. A lot of money is coming off of the books this winter, and with that, a lot of doors could begin to open up.
That said, the end of the 2021 season is truly the year in which Zaidi gets a blank canvass. Following the last out of 2021, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford will become free agents. Additionally, Buster Posey and Johnny Cueto have buyouts clauses in 2022 for $3 million and $5 million, respectively.
As Zaidi ponders what future moves the SF Giants should make, it is apparent that payroll space will not be an issue. They will have plenty of flexibility to add pieces for the next competitive team as they start to steer this rebuild in the right direction.